With Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania set to kick off Marvel Studios Phase 5 in February, what better time to take a comprehensive look back at the ups, downs, ins and outs of Phase 4. First up, the year that wasn’t.
Long before Avengers: Endgame hit theaters in 2019, Marvel Studios was already well into the planning stages of the Multiverse Saga. Disney Plus was set to play a major role in said saga, which looked set to introduce a slew of new heroes and villains. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was originally expected to kick off the new saga but after that went off the rails for a bit, exactly what to expect and when to expect it was a mystery until October of 2018 when the 2020 film slate was exclusively revealed to consist of only Black Widow and Eternals. When Murphy’s Multiverse went live in November of 2019, Marvel Studios had officially confirmed the news about the two films and also slated the first Disney Plus series, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier for a Fall 2020 release. 2020 wasn’t set to be the big, blockbuster opening year to Phase 4 that fans may have expected but it looked the be the calm before the storm as 2021 was set to feature 3 big films and 4 streaming series including the first animated series made by Marvel Studios…and then, before anyone could process it, Marvel Studio’s very 2020 existence was gone.
Things started off calmly enough in January 2020 as production on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier resumed following their holiday break. The production shot scenes involving the Flagsmashers at a State Park in Georgia, did some work in the downtown Atlanta location that served as Madripoor and was scheduled to head to Puerto Rico. Then, things started to get weird.
On January 9th, director Scott Derrickson and Marvel Studios amicably parted way on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which was set to begin principal photography in May. Just a couple of days later, before a second earthquake in Puerto Rico altered the course of the production of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. By mid-January, production on one of Marvel’s 2021 streaming series, Hawkeye, which was scheduled to begin in July, had been delayed indefinitely.
Even as all that unfolded, Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings began filming in Australia in February and productions in Atlanta for Loki, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk and the untitled third Spider-Man film were all on track and Thor: Love and Thunder, which Christian Bale had just joined, was set to get underway down under in October.
By early February, Sam Raimi emerged as the front runner to take the reigns on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as the studio remained committed to beginning production in May. Then, Hawkeye got back on schedule, booking a September start of production in Atlanta. With Puerto Rico off limits, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was headed to Prague. All seemed good in the world…
On March 3rd, 2020 the following information was shared to supporters of Murphy’s Multiverse Patreon:
I expect production delays to happen. Things may begin shooting, stop shooting and begin again later. They may get pushed several weeks entirely. I believe it’s possible, even probable, that some projects may see release dates shifted. I believe it’s possible, though I can’t speak to probability here, that some projects may not release at all. I believe Disney may have to consider shutting down their U.S. parks for as little as a few weeks and as long as a couple of months (they’ve already closed parks in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Japan to the tune of a $175 M loss). None of this is good. Not even Disney can afford to keep losing money at this rate.
By March 10th, rumors or release dates shifting started to pick up steam and by March 13th, word reached Murphy’s Multiverse that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier would not make its intended Fall 2020 release. By March 21st, Marvel Studios shut down all of its productions indefinitely (the linked article was published and available for some time before we were asked to take it down as many of the members of various crews had not been informed of the pauses on productions). The COVID-19 pandemic was in its earliest and most frightening days and like everything else, the world of Marvel Studios stopped in its tracks.
With nothing but uncertainty staring them in the face, Marvel Studios had no choice but to start making movies. In early April, they made the first in a series of delays to their film slate pushing Black Widow from its intended May release to November and pushing Eternals into 2021. Additionally, with no clear answers about the safety of the production crews, Marvel Studios production stoppage continued with the studio eyeing a September restart.
In early May, the Czech Republic opened back up to film crews, giving fans hope that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier might just make its 2020 release date after all. By June, things started to slowly heat up again as Hollywood and the rest of the world grew accustomed to working remotely. News of Evan Peters role in WandaVision proved to be the biggest news in months, Marvel Studios continued to search for the perfect Kamala Khan and production on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier resumed.
As productions got back on track, so too did casting, hiring and planning for the future. Hailee Steinfeld landed the role of Kate Bishop in Hawkeye, director Nia DaCosta landed the Captain Marvel 2 gig and there was finally some movement on Marvel Studios’ Fantastic Four. Then, just as Ant-Man 3 got put on the 2022 slate, Jonthan Majors was cast in it as Kang and fans started to think just maybe they’d see Black Widow in November, the winds shifted once more. In September, as all of Hollywood shifted dates and release platforms, Disney became aware that a November release was not possible for Black Widow and began to search for a new date.
As confidence in a theatrical release for Black Widow plummeted, hope arose that WandaVision would skip over The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and release in 2020, perhaps as early as Thanksgiving. A trailer for the project was released in late September, marking the first new Marvel marketing material of the year. Just a few days later, however, Marvel Studios officially pulled the plug on the 2020 release of Black Widow, pushing it 6 months further down the road into May 2021.
Productions resumed and began and, alas, WandaVision didn’t quite make into 2020. By October, production had gotten underway on Spider-Man: No Way Home and in December word of Charlie Cox‘s role in the film was shared to the disbelief of pretty much everyone. A year that began with so much hope and saw so much struggle ended with the promise of Cox’s return.
For those that remember it well, 2020 was all about the news and rumors as any little tidbit gave fans something to cling to while we waited to understand what was happening around us. While it was expected to be slow year for Marvel Studios, nobody could have expected it to be the year with no Marvel Studios presence.